Published: 26th April 2021
Australian government extends financial support for virtual medical service
Telehealth services were established to allow Australians in regional areas to meet with general practitioners (GPs) and specialists virtually without travelling hours
Australians will be able to continue meeting with doctors virtually until the end of 2021 after the government extended support for telehealth services. Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Monday that the telehealth services will continue until December 31 as the federal government's financial support for it is due to end on June 30, Xinhua reported.
Telehealth services were established to allow Australians in regional areas to meet with general practitioners (GPs) and specialists virtually without travelling hours, which was extended during the COVID-19 pandemic to all Australians. More than 13.5 million patients used the system for about 54 million appointments in the 12 months to March 2021. Hunt said the decision to extend support was a recognition of the important role telehealth played at the height of the pandemic in Australia.
He said telehealth services "have been life changing for many in need of support" over the last months. "The extension will ensure that Australians can continue to see their GP, renew scripts and seek mental health support from the safety of their own home. This allows vulnerable Australians to feel protected and supported during these unprecedented times." It comes after medical practitioners warned against cutting support in June.
Sam Harvey, acting director of mental health support organization the Black Dog Institute, said benefits of supporting the scheme outweighed the costs. "We want patients to have it as an option," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). "The end cost is the same, whether it is face to face or telehealth.